PORTLAND — If a jury had not heard statements Karl Vincent Kittredge made to police, he might not be serving a lengthy prison sentence for theft, his attorney said Wednesday.
Thomas Carey told justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that Kittredge’s remarks made to state police in the office of his probation officer should have been suppressed because they were not voluntary and should not have been permitted at trial.
Kittredge, 49, of Sidney, was convicted in Kennebec County Superior Court in August 2013 of theft by unauthorized taking and was sentenced to five years in prison with all but 42 months suspended and two years’ probation. The unsuspended portion of the sentence was made concurrent to a probation revocation.
Kittredge was convicted of taking jewelry, including a ring valued at $850, bracelets, cash, oxycodone pills, eight tickets from Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco as well as a safe from a Randolph woman’s home on June 11, 2012. Kittredge had previously installed the safe at the home.
The same jury cleared Kittredge of a related charge of burglary.
Kittredge’s son had been charged with the burglary and theft as well, but that case was dismissed for insufficient evidence, according to the court record.
District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, who prosecuted the case against the elder Kittredge, urged the justices to uphold the trial court’s decision and let the verdict stand. She argued that the questioning of Kittredge by two state troopers in the office of Kittredge’s probation officer was not custodial and did not require a warning about self-incrimination.
“Isn’t the 800-pound gorilla in the room the fact that the defendant was at his probation office?” Justice Warren Silver asked Maloney. “They have to go where the probation officer wants them to go. Shouldn’t we be having a heightened scrutiny of his rights in that situation?”
Maloney said Kittredge was on probation so he had previously been advised of his rights.
Carey told the panel of six supreme court justices that Kittredge had been ordered by his probation officer to submit to the interrogation and believed he had the threat of a probation revocation — meaning a return to jail — hanging over him.
Maloney characterized Kittredge’s actions during the questioning differently. She said the officers saw his shoulders sag and then he said, “That friggin’ son of mine got me in trouble again.”
Carey quoted Kittredge as testifying, “I was nervous. I mean I’m on probation… I felt I had to answer the questions. I figured if I didn’t was going to jail.” In the brief filed prior to the oral arguments, Carey wrote, “The troopers interrogated Karl about (the victim’s) safe to such an extent that Karl broke down and made arguably incriminating statements. Karl did not feel free to leave, nor did he feel like he had a choice but to answer the officers’ questions.”
Kittredge was on probation for a 2007 burglary spree that targeted Christmas presents in homes across Kennebec County.
Chief Justice Leigh Saufley noted that the record indicated Kittredge left when the interview was over.
“There were no threats, no physical restraints, no handcuffs,” she said. “The troopers made it clear he was not under arrest.”
Maloney said the conversation between the troopers and Kittredge “was cordial and polite the entire time. I think that’s important.”
When the justices asked why there was no recording of the interview, Maloney said the officer explained to jurors that he had taped it incorrectly.
“No bad faith involved?” Saufley asked.
“No, your honor,” Maloney responded.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issues its decisions in writing weeks and sometimes months after oral arguments.
Kittredge is being held at the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren, and his earliest possible release date was listed as May 2, 2016, on the website of the Maine Department of Corrections.